When a Whistleblower Reports an Incident of Sexual Harassment

A whistleblower is defined as an employee who reports a workplace incident that was committed either by a boss or coworker that is discriminatory, illicit, unhealthy, or unsafe. Many employees may have a general idea of what a whistleblower is, but never anticipate having to report misconduct regarding their employer. If an employee witnesses an incident of workplace sexual harassment, he or she may want to contact an anonymous hotline immediately, so what happened can be investigated. 

How do I know if what I saw was sexual harassment?

Jokes and teasing can seem like innocent fun to some people, when it comes to the workplace such behavior may be considered sexual harassment. For example, it is sexual harassment if a coworker makes verbal slurs, jokes or epithets about another employee that is of a sexual nature. Here are other examples of sexual harassment that can happen in the workplace: 

  • Sexual gestures that are non-verbal towards a coworker or boss
  • Displaying items that are of a sexual nature can include artwork, sculptures, pictures, cartoons, decor, computer screen backgrounds, doodles, and much more 
  • Verbal abuse that includes comments about how a coworker looks
  • Using degrading sexual terms to describe a coworker
  • Writing letters, an invitation, message, or email to a coworker that is sexually suggestive or vulgar 

Who can I turn to if it was my boss that sexually harassed my coworker?

Employees who have witnessed sexual assault happen can contact the company human resources department. If by any chance the HR representative does not take the report seriously or does not follow up to investigate, there may be a hotline you can call that is anonymous to report what happened. 

If I report the incident to a hotline, does that make me a whistleblower?

Whistleblowers are employees who report any incident in the workplace that is unlawful. A whistleblower who submitted a complaint about sexual harassment may be afraid of retaliation if they are found out. Motivated to do the right thing, an employee may file the report and hope things get handled appropriately. Even though hotlines are anonymous, the employer may still be able to identify who the whistleblower was based on what is written in the report. 

What are ways that my employer may retaliate against me?

If you report the sexual harassment incident, your employer may try to punish you in a variety of ways. Depending on how angry the employer is, he or she may be more subtle in how they retaliate or make it plainly obvious. It may be time to obtain legal representation if any of the following has happened to you: 

  • You were fired soon after whistleblowing, with or without being given a reason
  • Your job duties were greatly reduced
  • You received a pay cut 
  • You were relocated to another department or were demoted
  • You were denied a promotion that was earned and previously conversed about, after filing the report
  • You experienced a newly hostile work environment, where your employer or coworkers treated you poorly

Contact a lawyer, like a whistleblower retaliation claim lawyer in Washington, DC from Eric Siegel Law, if you are thinking about blowing the whistle on your employer.